KEY WEST, FL - According to an online news report on the MiamiHerald.com, a Key West college student caught a Goliath Grouper in the Key West area and was later arrested and put in jail for possessing and harvesting of a Goliath Grouper, which is strictly prohibited in the State of Florida. The Key West college student received a difficult life lesson regarding Florida's fishing and game laws this week, according to police. The life lesson landed the young man in jail.
The 18-year-old fisherman was arrested and then put in jail shortly after Florida state fish and wildlife law enforcement officers accused the teen of removing a Goliath grouper from the water in order to pose for a picture with the large fish. The teen was arrested and has been charged with misdemeanor charge of possession of a Goliath grouper. The teenager was booked into the Stock Island Detention Center, and he was later released that day once he posted a $7,500 bail bond.
The Key West college student got into trouble with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission after he shared a photo of himself with the Goliath Grouper. The teen sent the image in a group text to several friends. Since 1990, the Goliath Grouper has been a protected species of fish in the State of Florida. Whether the fish is caught in state or federal waters, it is still a crime to remove the fish from the water. In other words, removing the fish from the water is tantamount to illegally possessing and harvesting the fish.
According to the report, the 18-year-old did not kill the protected Goliath Grouper. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the teen stated to law enforcement officers that he caught the young Goliath Grouper in a lagoon located on the campus of the College of the Florida Keys on Stock Island's arrest report. The lagoon where the Goliath Grouper was caught is a dive training lagoon, and there are several signs indicating that fishing is forbidden. The teen stated that he caught the Goliath Grouper in August.
According to the College's spokesperson, Amber Ernst-Leonard, the College's dive lagoon is a "classroom space" where they teach marine science and dive classes, and the lagoon is filled with a lot of wildlife that the college values and respects.
The news report asserts that the teen stated he caught the Goliath Group, removed the fish from the water, was "messing around" with the fish, and removed the hook from the fish's mouth, and then started to take pictures with the fish. Law enforcement officers state that the issue is that the teen removed the fish from the water, and then he traveled more than 100 feet in order to take a photograph. The teen was caught because he decided to share a photo of him and the Goliath grouper with several friends in a group text message. One of the people who received the photo went to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and showed law enforcement the photo.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigators arrived at the suspect's College of the Florida Keys dorm room to converse with the teen about the photo.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, a person may take a photograph of a Goliath Group as long as the photograph doesn't delay or get in the way of releasing the fish. In other words, only when the fish is being released. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission states that taking photos or any activity such as measuring the Goliath Grouper may not delay the release of the fish in any way. In addition, "Large Goliath Groupers" must be left in the water during the fish's release.